Assault or abuse associated with an organization in California?
- Several organizations in California are facing allegations of assault and abuse.
- Adults who were abused as children have until Dec. 31, 2022 — just over two months left — to file a lawsuit under California’s Child Victims Act’s look-back window.
- Those affected by the abuse do have rights. Fill out the form on this page for a free case review to find out what recourse is available to you.
Such institutions have strong presences in California, and some California residents may have faced clergy sexual abuse or other sexual abuse by authority figures in their childhood, or they may have children who were subjected to such abuse.
What can you do?
If you or a loved one faced clergy abuse in California by the Catholic Church or another institution, you may have a legal claim to file with the help of an experienced California clergy abuse lawyer.
What is clergy sexual abuse?
Clergy sexual abuse or misconduct refers to any event when a member of clergy uses their position of power to lure, exploit and harm through sexual abuse an individual who is part of their own congregation.
Based on the clergy member’s position of power, the victim may face difficulties in refusing any advances. As a result, verbal consent cannot be used as an acceptable defense against clergy sexual abuse, because “consent is never possible when someone feels like they don’t have a choice,” according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
What institutions are under investigation for sexual assault in California?
These institutions may have covered up allegations of abuse, allegedly putting their reputations ahead of the interests of alleged victims.
California has also recently seen litigation over former UCLA gynecologist James Heaps, which named UCLA and alleged the school knew about the alleged sexual abuse but allowed Heaps to keep working there before eventually reporting him.
The University of Southern California (USC) is set to pay more than $1.1 billion to former patients of George Tyndall, the former campus gynecologist accused of abusing hundreds of students.
The Thacher School in Ojai, California has also faced allegations of sexual misconduct committed by its faculty members over the last several decades.
Some sports organizations, including USA Taekwondo, have been implicated in sexual abuse litigation as well.
Read more: What Are the California Sexual Assault Laws?
Has the Catholic Church in CA accepted responsibility for clergy sexual abuse?
In recent years, the Catholic Church has grappled with the issue of its culpability in individual instances of abuse — failing to prevent the abuse, or even actively covering it up. One way in which the Church has sought to reckon with its history of abuse is by setting up compensation funds for victims. One such fund was set up in California.
The California victims’ compensation fund was supported by six dioceses in Californian including:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Bernardino
Victims had until March 31, 2020 to file a claim for benefits under the compensation fund. The state of California does have a statute of limitations on clergy sexual abuse claims, which has since been expanded by the California Child Victims Act, but it does not apply to claims made for benefits as part of the California sexual abuse settlement fund.
The California compensation fund did not have a cap of the amount of benefits that can be paid out, unlike some similar funds set up in other states that do have a cap.
Hundreds of priests named in report
In 2018, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reportedly added the names of 54 priests accused of child sexual abuse to a previous list started by the Diocese of Orange, bringing the total number of clergy members on the list to 323.
The list began with a mere 14 names in 2016, according to The Los Angeles Times; however, advocates compiled many more names and pressured church officials to hold priests accused of abuse accountable.
“We implore the diocese to do better and to do more, because the survivors deserve more and deserve better,” an attorney representing some individuals who claim they were abused by clergy members told reporters at the time.
Many of the priests on the list have been accused of sexually abusing children decades ago, in the 1950s and 1960s, local news source KTLA 5 reported. Many of the named clergy members have died or moved out of the area.
For its part, the Archdiocese says that it is trying to be more transparent with the public by adding additional names of priests. The Archdiocese added names of deceased priests accused of abuse, as well as the names of clergy members with “plausible” accusations of abuse made against them, according to Patch.com.
A current list of clergy members accused of child sexual abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese can be found on its website.
How has the California Child Victims Act affected filing for clergy sexual abuse?
The California Child Victims Act has expanded the previous limitations that existed to victims of clergy sexual abuse. The amendments now provide a “look-back window” from January 2020 for the next three years that enables victims to file lawsuits for any past child sexual abuse.
Previous law in California only allowed adults up until the age of 26 to file childhood clergy sexual abuse claims, however the California Child Victims Act has now increased that age to 40.
Read more: What is the California Child Victims Act?
Have California clergy sexual abuse lawsuits been filed?
In California, dozens of people have come forward claiming that they were victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The Church has attempted to fight these lawsuits, even as allegations mount.
The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, faced multiple accusations of misconduct, pointing to a larger pattern of issues in Catholic Church institutions around the state, according to La Jolla Light.
What is the average settlement for clergy abuse?
The clergy sexual abuse crisis has cost the Catholic Church in the United States more than $3 billion in settlements, according to a 2018 report by National Public Radio, and that figure has only grown since then.
Out of the seven Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, the average payout has been approximately $148,000, based on settlements arranged by the victim’s compensation funds set up in the state, per ABC News. This amount is significantly less than what some clergy sexual abuse victims may have expected if they took their case to court.
In May 2018, 450 clergy sexual abuse survivors in Minneapolis took their share of a $210 million settlement agreement with the Archdiocese of St. Paul.
The Catholic Church is not the only religious institution that has been hit with a wave of sexual assault litigation. Other religious organizations, such as the Mormon church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have also been the subject of numerous sexual abuse lawsuits in the last several years.
States all across the country have been making significant changes to their childhood sex abuse laws, allowing survivors to come forward years or even decades after the fact to pursue compensation for their suffering.
Secular institutions are being hit with a rising tide of litigation over sexual abuse as well, including schools like UCLA.